Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he'd accept a "clean" measure to extend government funding, but not the one-week measure expected to pass the House on Thursday.
Reid said that the Senate would be "happy" to do a continuing resolution to help facilitate a deal, but only if it's "clean," meaning that it extends funding at current levels, and without any policy riders.
"If we need a clean CR, of course we'll do that," Reid said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "But it has to be toward culminating an agreement."
The top Senate Democrat wasn't clear as to how long of a CR would be acceptable; President Obama said on Tuesday that he'd be willing to accept a short-term one, but perhaps only for a few days, and only if it appeared clear that a deal was fast-approaching.
"We'll be happy to do a clean CR," Reid said, as long as it would allow him, Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to work out a final agreement.
The House is expected to vote Thursday to approve what they're calling a "troop funding" bill. It would extend government funding for another week, cut $12 billion from the budget, and extend defense spending through the end of this fiscal year.
Both Reid and Boehner expressed pessimism Thursday morning that negotiations to prevent a shutdown had slid backwards overnight, following a marathon meeting at the White House.
Reid said an agreement hinged on policy riders, namely the measures to rescind federal support to Planned Parenthood and limit the Environmental Protection Agency's authority.
Boehner said that an agreement depended on far more than those items, including the amount that Democrats would be willing to cut.
Both Boehner and Reid are heading back to the White House this afternoon for another meeting with the president.
In the meanwhile, Reid said he was beginning to question whether the GOP Speaker really wanted a deal.
"Yes, I am," he said when asked if he was questioning whether Boehner intended to seek an agreement.